Ever since the state of Uttarakhand was created in 2000, Harish Rawat dreamt of becoming chief minister.
In fact, twice he came very close to it. In 2002, the Congress won the state’s first assembly elections under his leadership as the state unit chief. But the party high command chose veteran leader Narayan Dutt Tiwari as chief minister.
The second time was in 2012. Rawat revolted against the Congress high command for picking Bahuguna as chief minister after the assembly elections. He was denied the CM’s post despite having the support of 17 of the 32 Congress MLAs.
At 66, the Thakur leader has finally got his wish. Rawat has replaced Vijay Bahuguna as Uttarakhand chief minister at a time when the ruling Congress’ support base in the state is dwindling.
Bahuguna’s poor handling of the relief work after last June’s flash floods has added to the growing disenchantment of the public with the Congress.
And Rawat being anointed as CM at this crucial juncture – three months away from the Lok Sabha elections – is a measure of the party’s faith in his political and administrative acumen.
Born and raised at Mohnari, a remote village around 80km from Almora district headquarters, Rawat worked his way to the top from the grassroots.
He began his political career as a gram pradhan way back in 1972. The BA, LLB from Lucknow University was elected block pramukh a year later.
In 1977, he became a Youth Congress district president, and that’s when he came in touch with the late Sanjay Gandhi, who then called the shots within the Congress.
Gandhi is said to have mentored him and also got him the party ticket from Almora for the 1980 Lok Sabha elections.
Rawat won, defeating Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart Murli Manohar Joshi.
Rawat trumped Joshi again in the next general elections, and later defeated another political giant, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) leader Kashi Singh Aery.
However, Rawat lost the Almora Lok Sabha seat twice to the BJP’s Bachhi Singh Rawat.
In 2002, Rawat was elected to the Rajya Sabha. He also served as the Uttarakhand Pradesh Congress Committee president between 2001 and 2007.
In 2009, he contested the high-profile Haridwar Lok Sabha seat and won.
Now, with the general elections coming up, it remains to be seen how much damage control Rawat can do for the Congress.